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Poetry and Medicine
April 7, 1999


Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;281(13):1154. doi:10.1001/jama.281.13.1154

Another Cape May sunset spreads color
on an ocean sky, each detail not to be missed,
like a coloratura's breath in a difficult passage.
That stroke nearly killed me, she tells me,
a volunteer to push her wheelchair
on wet sand strewn with debris.
It had started as a confusion of keys,
a forgotten combination to open a door.
Lapses, like flickering lights before the dark.
Five years passed, she makes do with what she lacks:
feeling in her left leg and hand, and music.
It's as if the orchestra were submerged.
When she hears the notes swirl low, swishing
like vintage silk, she sways in time,
and her working thumb strokes her wedding band.
Ah, music, she sighs when it's gone,
but was it "La Vie en Rose"
or the Chopin waltz she used to play by heart
against the minute hand of the clock—
fingers scaling the Bösendorfer keyboard
while pedal held and released familiar chords.

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